Thursday, September 22, 2011

Embarrassment Of Riches In Wheeling, West Virginia

In the Rust Belt, legacy costs cut both ways. Shrinking cities such as Pittsburgh are saddled with a crushing pension debt. An infrastructure meant to accommodate twice the number of people is old and crumbling. The glory days are killing these places. There are also regal relics of this wealth such as found in wonderful Wheeling, West Virginia:

There was a time when Wheeling, West Virginia was one of the most prosperous cities in this country. It was once the site where the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad terminated. Wheeling's on the historic National Road and the Ohio River. With its hills and great Victorian architecture, the city still retains majesty.

The intersection of money with the drama of Northern Appalachia results in some of the finest urban landscapes in the world. Travel writers are rediscovering these gems as if the disappearing black soot of industry is revealing a great lost civilization. A Baltimore journalist for a DC newspaper is recommending a weekend getaway in Wheeling.

This article is indicative of the changing Rust Belt brand. It's like how Vermont went from meaning backwoods hicks to quality and craftsmanship. Why readers of Outside magazine voted Chattanooga as the ultimate dream town:

Like virtually everyone else I meet during the three days I spend in town, James is a transplant—and most of the others tell the same story. Chattanooga is affordable: the median home value is around $128,000. Major employers such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, Cigna, Volkswagen, and McKee Foods (they make all your Little Debbie snacks) provide the foundation of an unflashy yet relatively stable and diverse ­local economy.

The foodies are coming, too, bringing with them those hipster Portland and Burlington restaurants that emphasize locally grown everything. And even if the hookup scene is lacking—one local single moro­sely informed me that Chattanooga is “a town of sixes, and barely enough of those”—there are signs of life. The weekend I was in town, the Crash Pad—a new, self-­described “boutique hostel” aimed at the outdoor crowd—threw a well-attended party with DJ talent imported from Los Angeles.

There is more in them hills than just Asheville. These cities have kept their secrets well. Now the gig is up. The cities of the old mountain country are the places to be.


anmihail said...

My friend Zach visited Chattanooga a few months ago with his girlfriend, and the one thing they couldn't say enough about it when they came back was how ugly everyone was. I can't believe that's a legitimate aspect of the city, given all the variety and possibility of the human gene pool...

Jim Russell said...

Nothing that some Tennessee whiskey can't fix.